6 Steps Parents Take When Choosing a Child Care Center

A s a child care owner or preschool director, you are in the business of enrolling new students. Yes, this might sound crude, but the only way you will stay in business is if you indeed enroll children at your facility. So you must be ready every day (every minute, really) to follow-up on “leads.” Parent leads, or “referrals”, are prospective parents who show interest in your child care program, either by calling you, emailing you, or stopping by your center for a tour.

Every lead is an opportunity and every lead that you let slip through your fingers is, therefore, a lost opportunity. If you feel that you are having trouble either generating leads or turning those leads into enrollments, this article is for you!

What you need to ask yourself is: How do parents decide where to place their children?

Of course, the answer is different from parent to parent. Individuals have different values, morals and beliefs about child development. However, there are some basic steps that most parents go through.

At CareLuLu, we’ve helped thousands of parents find the right child care or preschool program for their child (and hence helped many child care providers get enrollments; you can join for free here.) While helping so many parents, we’ve come up with the 7 steps that typically happen before an enrollment, from a parent’s perspective. If you are aware of these steps, you will likely have more success converting leads into enrollments!

Step 1. Parents begin their search 3-6 months before they need care. 15-20 % of parents ask friends and family for recommendations. The other 80-85 %, however, look to the web. That’s why an online presence is essential to your success. Parents will find a few programs that they like, research them, read reviews and seek out as much information as they can find about those “top choices.” This is where CareLuLu.com becomes so useful. Parents can find all the information they need in one place. It is free and easy to use, making it the go-to place for parents to research child care and preschool programs. Having a profile on CareLuLu is one of the easiest ways to boost parent leads and increase your online presence.

Step 2. Parents contact child care programs. It is essential to remember that, at this point, they are likely getting in touch with at least 4 or 5 child care providers. They are “in the market.” The more quickly you can get back in touch, the better. Whether you leave a voicemail, reply via e-mail, or speak to them on the phone, you should be cheerful and upbeat and be sure to close with a call to action that will encourage them to come visit your home or center.

Step 3. Child care programs follow-up with parents. If the parent doesn’t reply immediately, you should follow up at least 7 times. Always remain chipper and upbeat and continue to let them know how much you would love to meet them and their child in person. Eventually, if you have been persistent enough, you will likely have the opportunity to give them a tour.

Step 4. Parents schedule a tour with their top choices. Congratulations! Parents usually only visit 2 or 3 programs so you’ve made the final cut. This is your chance to really let your staff and facility shine. Show the parents all of the wonderful things that you or your teachers are doing in the classrooms. Talk to them about your special programs. Let them talk to children and caregivers. For you, this should be considered an interview. The tour is when the parent has the opportunity to really talk with you and ask questions. Be prompt, prepared and pleasant. Be sure to ask them questions about their family and children, as well. Show sincere interest.

Step 5. Child care programs follow-up again and offer an incentive. Once parents have visited you, your job is not done! Go back to step 3, and repeat! Yes, you should follow up again and let them know that you are excited at the prospect of their child coming to spend their days with you. Send additional information and give details. Use this as an opportunity to share information you may have forgotten to mention while giving them a tour. Perhaps, you could offer a free discovery day or some other incentive to get them back through your doors.

Step 6. Parents return to their top 1-2 choices to observe the classroom. This is something that every parent should have the opportunity to do. Invite them to sit in with the class in which their child would be enrolled. This will allow them to get a feel for how the room is organized, what types of activities the children do and what types of personalities the teachers have. Very few preschools offer this option, and if you do, you will stand out!

These 6 steps are a very general outline of the process through which a parent makes the decision to enroll their child in a child care or preschool program. Your ability to generate parent leads or referrals, and then follow up is a huge factor in your success. If you fail to get in touch (and stay in touch) with interested parents, then you aren’t likely to enroll their child. Also, in order for parents to find you and research the program, you need to have a strong online presence and be available for tours, observations and conversations. Parents are making a huge decision, so let them know that you “get it”, and do whatever you can to make them feel comfortable!

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  • I didn’t realize that parents should be searching for the right daycare center 3-6 months before they need the care! You also mention that the majority (80-85%) of parents find their daycare centers via the web. I think it’s important for daycare centers should have a video feed of the play area so that nervous parents can check in on their kids from time to time.

  • This is a lot of great advice, I especially like that you remind your audiences that parents most likely will tour any child care program that they’re seriously considering for their kids. You should always be kind and courteous to the parents when they arrive and you want to make sure that you’ve set aside and devoted a part of your day to actually taking them on the tour. Also, as the article mentions, you want to show sincere interest in the family when you’re asking them questions as that shows the genuine concern you have for their children’s health and well-being.

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